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A Holistic Approach to Hypertension

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Sometimes it's possible to control high blood pressure without medication

As I began researching about hypertension to present information that would prove helpful to our readers, I was overwhelmed by the technological wordage of why, how, and what to do. While I have been studying holistic nutrition and see the importance of the dietary connection for improving our health overall, even though I do not suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, I felt as confused as many people who suffer from this condition when looking at several resources. I wanted to learn about hypertension, its causes in easy to understand terms, and the choices I have to help not only improve arterial condition, but to also reduce the risk of chronic hypertension.

In the simplest of terms, hypertension creates the interruption of the flow of blood through the blood vessels. Several factors can influence this condition: hormonal, renal (kidney), neurological, as well as genetic factors. But we must ask ourselves, if these are “our” factors, what causes these factors to occur? As a complementary practitioner, I am always looking for causes rather than a “cover up” of the symptoms I may be experiencing. Then, if I come to understand what is causing my condition, I ask myself what I can do to stop or reverse the processes going on within my body that create the adverse condition I suffer.

The dietary factors I learned of from one of my valued resources, “Textbook of Natural Medicine” by Joseph Pizzorno Jr. and Michael T. Murray, contributing to hypertension, include “obesity, high sodium-to-potassium ratio; low fiber, high sugar diet, high saturated fat, and low omega 3 fatty acid intake, and a diet low in calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin C.” And one must consider the following influencing factors, as well, that can contribute to high blood pressure: “stress, lack of exercise, smoking...  and exposure to heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.”

These contributing factors I feel are controllable by personal choice. When looking at diet, the authors report that “the most important dietary recommendation is to increase the proportion of plant foods in the diet... increasing fruit and vegetable intake has been shown to lower blood pressure.”

While this solution is not the only one for those suffering from hypertension, it becomes, in my experience, a place to begin. As each person suffering hypertension has their own individual “cause,” the solution must also become “individual,” and this may take a lot of personal research to uncover what works for your particular condition.

Following are some other options from the members of The Sandpoint Wellness Council to address what you may be experiencing with your hypertension. If we can control much of the causes of hypertension by the choices we make, we can also ease many of our symptoms by utilizing complementary therapies.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, CDT, Reiki, Touchstone Massage Therapies, 290-6760

Massage therapy has proven time and time again to reduce stress, tension, ease emotional distress, and lower blood pressure. Massage improves sleep patterns, improves immune function, reduces anxiety, and improves muscle tone, and range of motion. There is something so special about sharing an hour or more in a special “just for you” session. When we take care of ourselves, we automatically feel better. In a restful massage session, the autonomic nervous system, the one that keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes, such as breathing, digestion, immune function, etc. gets to rest and relax. This lowering of stress at such an internal, systemic level affects blood pressure.  As stated above, with a consistent nutritional diet coupled with stres-reducing sessions, hypertension has a difficult time taking hold in one’s life.

Penny Waters, Relaxation Destination, 208/597-4343.

Emotional stress, work pressure and the state of the world all contribute to a state of mind that is reflected in a tense, inflexible and constricted physical body. This tightening of our whole being raises our blood pressure. This is because there is a direct relationship between our nerves and constriction of the peripheral blood vessels. The state of our arteries and blood pressure are also impacted by a diet like the one described in the introduction, lack of exercise and lifestyle choices such as smoking.

To lower high blood pressure, there needs to be a reduction of tension and stress, relaxation in blood vessels, clearing of congestion (calcium, cholesterol, fatty deposits) on blood vessel walls, improved circulation and control of water levels in the body.

Relaxation therapy, such as reflexology, is excellent for easing tension throughout the body and, thereby, lowering blood pressure. Reflexology works through the nerve and energy pathways having a direct impact on the imbalance in the nervous system, calming it effectively and profoundly. Reflexology also supports the throwing off of excess congestion throughout the body.

Herbs are extremely effective in assisting us to relax and to help lower blood pressure directly. Anti-spasmodic herbs, circulation stimulating herbs, and relaxing herbs are ideal. Linden blossoms will remove cholesterol and over time inhibit reforming of cholesterol on artery walls. It is also a relaxant which makes it a truly specific herb for high blood pressure. Diuretic herbs help the kidneys to pass more water or inhibit them from reabsorbing as much water, thus reducing the amount of fluid in the system. This reduces the pressure in the blood vessels. Dandelion, corn silk and parsley are excellent choices for this purpose.

High blood pressure is a serious condition and requires understanding to treat effectively. I do not recommend self- treating with herbs. Used properly, there are great results reported with the use of relaxation therapies, herbs and lifestyle changes.    

Ilani Kopiecki, CranioSacral and Integrated Bodywork, (208) 610-2005

Hypertension can cause serious problems if left unchecked over a period of time. In CranioSacral Therapy we call symptoms of hypertension “the red flag,” which means that the client is in a constant state of hyper awareness. In many cases the client’s nervous system is on constant alert, causing the heart to pump faster, the body to tense, and the mind to race. CranioSacral treatment can be of great benefit for people who suffer from hypertension. During a treatment the nervous system, which includes the brain and spine, slows down to a normal rate, and the hypertense symptoms greatly improve. Many times after two or three treatments, the nervous system sustains its more relaxed awareness, and the hypertension dissolves.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer, www.align.org 208-265-8440

Hypertension Is Tension—The Problem

Many years ago, a Rolfing client of mine had his annual physical—his first one since he’d begun Rolfing. For the first time in his adult life, his blood pressure was normal. He was amazed. “The only thing I did in the last few months is Rolfing. How is that possible?” he asked me.

I explained that hypertension is caused by simple tension. He knew better than me, being a physician, that hypertension is the increased resistance caused by stiffness or lack of elasticity in the small arteries that are farthest away from the heart. In short, hypertension acts like a big, constant blood pressure cuff on all the blood vessels reducing blood flow and raising blood pressure. Rolfing released the tension in his muscles and in the connective tissue of his muscles which released the tension in the connective tissue of the blood vessels. His tension was no longer constantly squeezing his blood vessels, so his hypertension went away and his blood pressure finally reached a normal level.

Eighty million Americans (1 in 3 adults) have hypertension, and I am willing to bet they’re in the upper percentiles for stress. As the most common cardiovascular disease, hypertension’s main clinical causes are commonly associated with secondary behaviors caused by stress, such as drinking excessively and smoking.

Fascia, the connective tissue that Rolfers release, is in and around muscles, organs and blood vessels. Dr. Hans Selye, MD, the researcher who first understood the impact of stress on our health, describes this fascia as the organ of stress. With stress, all the fascia continues to tighten in response to what the body experiences as a constant survival state.

The Solution

When hypertension is caused by stress, the stress and its underlying cause need to be removed. Unfortunately, the accumulated stress builds up in the soft tissue as the stress cycle becomes self-perpetuating. At this point, it generally takes some intervention to remove it and some specific training in how not to recreate it.

When I had a clinic in Scottsdale, we ran Mindfulness Stress Reduction classes. In 8 weeks, though weekly classes and 45 minute of daily homework, these students released much of their old stress and learned not to reproduce it. One of our first students was a woman sent by a large corporation because she was on 6 different medications for her stress and high blood pressure. After 8 weeks, she was off her meds, getting along with her co-workers, and had normal blood pressure. Her boss confirmed all this.

The effective short course for many people is a series of Rolfing sessions. Through these sessions, the removal of the chronic stress, and relearning not to reproduce it can lead to very quick results.

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Sandpoint Wellness Counci Sandpoint Wellness Counci The Sandpoint Wellness Council is an association of independent, complementary wellness practitioners located in Sandpoint dedicated to holistic health care. Pictured are: Owen Marcus, Penny Waters, Robin and Layman Mize, Ilani Kopiecki, Krystle Shapiro and Mario Roxas

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